Ice cream and Coca Cola are Healthier Choice foods

From ‘Healthier choice label: Call for more clarity’, 9 oct 2017, article by Linette Lai, ST

Even as the Health Promotion Board (HPB) looks to further tighten a scheme that labels some food products a “healthier choice”, experts say more can be done so that people do not mistakenly think all these foods are outright healthy.

The Healthier Choice scheme, with its trademark red pyramid label, now applies to 3,500 products – a tenfold increase from when it was launched in 2001. The label can even be seen on ice creams, soft drinks and frozen french fries.

One in five food products bears the Healthier Choice label.

What consumers really need is not a ‘Healthy’ or ‘Healthier Choice’ label, but the ‘Healthiest’ choice. When it comes to beverages, that would usually be water. HPB should be sticking the label on water coolers everywhere. Instead they’re allowing companies to claim the label for aspartame-loaded drinks like Coca-Cola Zero and Light. In other words, that red pyramid has become a marketing gimmick for Big Food. If 100 plus has it, then the folks behind H20 will fight for it too. If McDs has it for a McMuffin, then so would KFC for Popcorn chicken porridge.

It’s like telling you to opt for frozen yogurt in place of ice cream, when the really healthy thing to do would be to eat a fucking green apple. By opening the floodgates to desserts, sauces and curry mixes, the red pyramid becomes meaningless. Having a label-free sinful meal occasionally is a better deal than eating ‘Healthier Choice’ snacks, gravies and strawberry milk every other day. You force yourself to feel good about it, even if your kale-contaminated taste buds and tummy tells you otherwise.

HPB should seriously streamline the options. With every cheese, coke and frozen wantons cutting fats and sugar in order to be awarded Healthier Choice labels, it’s going to make it more stressful on consumers who would like to actually ENJOY their food once in a while. You end up overeating on mediocre stuff and you still die miserable anyway, seething with regret that you didn’t binge on that tub of Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream after a breakup because the red triangle label on the shitty potong next to it was screaming ‘NO! Bad Consumer! Diabetes!’ in your face.

If taken at face-value without really being mindful of our food choices, the Healthier Choice pyramid, like how the ancient Egyptians built it, is more a symbol of your road to an early grave rather than the food-group categorisation it is supposed to represent.

 

 

 

 

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Singapore needs more naysayers

From ‘Why Singapore needs more naysayers’, 25 Feb 2017, article by Charissa Yong, ST

Singapore needs more people to speak up and challenge authority, said a panel of academics and former senior civil servants yesterday.

They lamented the reluctance of civil servants to pose contrarian views when facing political office-holders, and the reticence of university students in asking questions at conferences.

…Said Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy dean Kishore Mahbubani, 68: “We need more naysayers.” He argued that Singapore cannot take its formulas for success developed over the last 50 years and apply them to the next 50 years, as the world has changed drastically.

“We need to create new formulas, which you can’t until you attack and challenge every sacred cow. Then you can succeed,” he added.

…Above all, Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh, 79, felt that differing points of view should be valued.

He said: “When we appoint people to boards, we can also appoint challengers who are subversive and who have alternative points of view. That’s the kind of cultural change we want to see. It makes Singapore stronger, not weaker.”

Interesting choice of words. A ‘naysayer’ is traditionally a vocal, niggling obstacle to something you want to achieve, be it establishing a semi-autocratic society  or pursuing a dream job as a kids’ party magician despite having a medical degree. In any quest for happiness or greatness, one is usually expected to prove people like the naysayers, the skeptics, the keyboard warriors, wrong – but now, experts are telling us otherwise, that having ‘naysayers’ is a good thing.

Unfortunately, it’s not a role that’s welcome with open arms in Parliament. Our rulers view robust debate as slowing down policy implementation, that having a one-party system may benefit Singapore as a whole. We also know what the Government has done to famous political naysayers in the past: sent them into exile, sued their pants off, or put them in jail. LKY labelled trade union shenanigans in the 1950’s as ‘subversive elements‘, the same adjective Tommy Koh uses for ‘challengers’ today.

Which probably explains the ‘reticence’ of students and civil servants in front of politicians. Decades of critic-silencing has ingrained within our society a climate of fear when it comes to freely speaking our mind. Refraining from challenging the status quo has become part of our Singaporean identity, our DNA. It’s not so much that we’re afraid of losing ‘face’, but rather we don’t want to end up with a defamation suit because we’ve grossly undermined the authority of a figurehead. If you present an ‘alternative view’, there’s a chance you may be dismissed outright as a vile fabricator, or sued for harassment by an entity that doesn’t qualify as a ‘person’ (The Government). If a public officer so much as posts about his disdain about a particular MP under the ruling party, he may risk losing his job as well. Silence, especially the Singaporean kind, is Golden.

Ultimately, the Government DECIDES what needs to be challenged and either ignores or , at worst, deals severe punishment to those who transgress predetermined boundaries. If you challenge the anti-gay law you’re not a maverick but a liberalist troublemaker. When civil servants moaned about the impending Internet Separation, the Government adopted it’s ‘Government knows Best’ attitude. Nobody asks about ministers’ salaries because we know this will never be answered, despite it being the biggest elephant in the room. Yes the world has changed drastically, but some conservative circles are still clinging on to obsolete ‘Asian values’ and waxing lyrical about our moral fibre, the sanctity of human life or marriage, but the Government is wary of offending this bunch at the expense of staying relevant on the world stage because VOTES.

So, really, what we need is not MORE naysayers, but a bold incursion into traditionally taboo subjects to naysay about. Let’s talk about the death penalty, medicinal cannabis, gay marriage, poverty, euthanasia, genetic testing. Otherwise all the naysaying in the world will do fuck all to coax the authorities’ head out of the sand.

24 noisy chickens culled by AVA

From ‘Culling of 24 chickens in Sin Ming ruffles feathers’, 2 Feb 2017, article by Toh Ee Ming, Today

As a debate flared up yesterday over free-ranging chickens that were put down by the authorities in the Sin Ming area, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) revealed that it received 250 complaints islandwide on free-ranging chickens last year, and they were mostly about noise-related nuisances caused by the birds.

…The authority also disclosed that it put down 24 chickens that were wandering around Thomson View and Blocks 452 to 454 Sin Ming Avenue, after getting 20 complaints last year from residents there, also mainly about noise.

Responding to queries from TODAY, the AVA added that the free-ranging chickens that are sometimes seen on mainland Singapore are not red junglefowl — an endangered species — though some may resemble them.

“Free-ranging chickens can pose a potential threat to public health, especially if their population is left unchecked. There is a likelihood of an incursion of bird flu into Singapore, as bird flu is endemic in the region,” the AVA said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GZJeplKV18

According to the AVA’s own FAQ,

It is rare for the bird flu virus to be transmitted from chickens to humans. Of all the bird flu virus strains, only the H5N1, H9N2, H7N7 and H7N9 (Shanghai 2013 strain) strains have been known to pass from chickens to humans.

Unless you’re the kind of sick pervert who sneaks up behind cockerels and sodomises them, the chances of anyone getting exposed and infected by bird flu from stray chickens is, by AVA’s own admission, rather low. So how is this poultry-cide even justified? Using this public health argument, these chickens are being put down with the same nonchalance as one does fogging to get rid of mosquitoes.

There was a time when chicken-stealing was a thing. With the demise of kampongs, having the occasional cock around serves as a nostalgic reminder of how simple life used to be. Now, with the authorities chick-hunting in response to complaints, all we have left to wake us up in the mornings is the metallic grumbling of the MRT train nearby.

So the weird neighbour with the noisy parrot that squawks ‘Fuck the PAP’ all day gets to keep his fowl-mouthed pet; while the free-as-a-bird chicken responding to nature’s call is slaughtered for being a nuisance and an indeterminate carrier of pathogens. Add one more bird to AVA’s kill-list, which also includes pigeons, but not crows (NEA) or mynahs (nobody’s business).

Thanks a lot, Sin Ming residents, now that the python in the woods has nothing to feed on, we have to be prepared to find them swimming around in our pools more often, waiting for a treat in the form of a juicy, plump baby perhaps.

Cats banned from HDB flats

From HDB letter to resident circulating online, 8 Jan 2017

All felines are banned from HDB flats but not various pedigrees of cat-sized toy dogs. HDB’s rationale for the ban has been the same for the last 4 DECADES. In 1978, HDB issued a statement ‘categorically’ banning cats from flats because they tend to stray ‘by nature’ and cause a nuisance to residents. Cat experts would subsequently protest that most cats are perfectly fine being confined within 4 walls and the ‘pussy gone wild’ excuse is a gross misconception. In that letter, roaming cats were also blamed for inciting fear in certain people and can ‘damage public property’ with their CLAWS. Yes, provided people hang their curtains OUTSIDE their flats.

Dogs, on the other hand, whilst enjoying this privilege, do not have the tendency of invading homes or leaving pawprints on your car, though occasionally, unlike the most ferocious of kitties, may BITE A CHUNK OFF YOUR FACE. 

Of course it doesn’t take just a cat to ‘disturb good neighbourliness’ by shitting indiscriminately, shedding fur or cauterwauling in the middle of the night. By the same token, not only should we ban shedding, barking dogs (though HDB has a solution of ‘debarking‘ noisy ones), but we should evict humans who smoke and burn incense in corridors, blast music in the wee hours of the morning, or take a piss in the lift. 

Surely HDB should be aware of the Love Cats pilot project in Chong Pang, a program endorsed by our cat-loving Law Minister himself, and let everyone know if the results have altered their perception of cats in any way. Even if they’re still pussyfooting around the regulations, it’s hardly useful to demand that an owner ‘remove’ the cat without offering any humane suggestions, considering that stray cats have been victims of horrific barbarism of late. Is HDB going to knock of the doors of every ‘old cat lady’ there is and round up all their cats? Wouldn’t the ban encourage more people to feed strays indiscriminately? Are the cat abusers out there rubbing their hands in masturbatory glee?

The approach to household pet management should be consistent across the board, whether it’s a dog, cat, goldfish or chinchilla: Enforcing responsible ownership. A blanket ban on cats based on their ‘nature’ has no scientific basis and reeks of an innate bias from watching too many campy spy movies with cat-stroking megavillians.

dr-evil-austin-powers-477_bokvcn

Perhaps our Law Minister or other ‘angels in power‘ can do something about this.

Public servants using Workplace by Facebook

From ‘All public servants in Singapore to use Workplace by Facebook by 2017’, 10 Nov 16, article by Irene Tham, ST

All public servants in Singapore will be using Workplace by Facebook to communicate with one another on their mobile phones and tablets, marking yet another first for Singapore among governments in the world.

Workplace by Facebook, a professional edition of the popular Facebook social networking tool, has been rolled out to 15 public agencies. It is in use by more than 5,300 public officers.

The plan is to get all 143,000 public servants from all agencies on board by March next year (2017), said Mr Peter Ong, head of the Public Service Division. The decision was made taking into consideration factors such as security, cost and ease of use.

…The use of Workplace by Facebook follows the Government’s move to delink public servants’ computers from Web surfing, first reported in June, to prevent leaks from work e-mail and shared documents amid heightened security threats.

Based on pricing info on Facebook’s website, costs for the service for all 143,000 public servants is estimated at around $154,000 per month.

If this was meant to be the deal sweetener in exchange for Internet separation (incidentally, also another First in the World), then why does it leave such a sour taste in the mouth? For such a new platform, this move to expose officers’ internal worksharing and personal data like a wretched slut to Facebook, an organisation not exactly known for keeping user data confidential, is horrifyingly premature, especially  coming from the same folks who researched long and hard before pulling the plug on the Internet for work computers.  Yes, Facebook will save us all from the bogeyman that is Internet Separation, an era of darkness that we dread more than 4 years of Trump Presidency.

As it is with the current Internet access, not many bother to ‘collaborate’ online through the Cube portal. With $154K out of the pocket every month, what makes the civil service think that officers would play around with Workplace when they’ll be busy struggling with dual devices once Internet separation sets in? If I need 2 minutes to send a link from a second device to my own work email, where do I find the time to log in Workplace and ‘Like’ that highly informative article that my boss just shared on his/her timeline? And I have to do this on MY phone? In between Whatsapp group chats and Youtube? Yikes.

In 1 year, the same amount of money that we willingly ejaculate all over Mark Zuckerberg’s Face (book) could have been used to beef up our cybersecurity while keeping the Internet as we know it intact. If not, at least it could send people off to an island villa work retreat – food and transport included. Public officers are barely recovering from a prickly slap in the face. This is the Government pouring calamine lotion on a fistful of dollar bills and rubbing the wad all over the wound.

 

MDA banning photos of freedom fighters from arts fest

From ‘Photos cut from show’, 24 June 2016, article by Nur Asyiqin Mohamed Salleh, ST

When Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian’s exhibition I Know Why The Rebel Sings opened on Wednesday night, black cards took the place of 15 photographs depicting Kurdish female soldiers who had joined the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Media Development Authority (MDA) had asked that these photographs be removed before a licence could be given for the exhibition, which is part of the Singapore International Festival of Arts’ pre- festival programme, The O.P.E.N.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, MDA said the festival team had submitted about 150 of Newsha’s photos for the exhibition. “These included photographs of members from a terrorist-linked organisation, who had committed acts of violence to further their cause, for example suicide bombing.”

MDA asked that these photographs be removed from the show. “Singapore takes a firm stand against extremism and will not allow photographs that undermine public order, national security and/ or stability to be displayed,” it said.

It did not name the organisation, but the women in the photographs removed from the exhibition are part of the YPJ, an all-woman offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which seeks to establish an independent Kurdish state in south-east Turkey.

Dear MDA,

I was browsing around at the local library and found this book featuring a photo of an extremist on the front cover. I’m concerned that this may undermine public order and influence readers into strapping bombs to themselves and killing Singaporeans. Please do the necessary. NLB, surely if you could pull out a book on gay penguins you would do the same for this too.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 7.39.49 PM

Dear MDA,

I was shocked and disturbed to find portraits of radicalised Bangladeshis on the MHA website. Please ask your fellow stat board to take down these photos immediately. They are seriously undermining public order. After my kid saw their faces, he insisited on bringing his water pistol to class everyday since.

https://www.mha.gov.sg/Newsroom/press-releases/PublishingImages/Pages/Arrests-of-27-Radicalised-Bangladeshi-Nationals-under-the-Internal-Security-Act-/Photographs%20of%20Bangladeshi%20Nationals%20arrested%20under%20the%20Internal%20Security%20Act.pdf

 Dear MDA,

What is the meaning of this? How did you even let this poster by the Police slip by without mosaicing the said terrorist’s face?

Dear MDA,

Please take action against the Straits Times. Although nobody has seen the face of the Chinese Singaporean taking up arms against Syria named Wang Yuandongyi, an editorial on which his capture was based on (April 2 2016) featured a photo of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters during training, which clearly glamorises terrorist-linked violence. I enclose the artistically-taken photo and offending page herein as evidence. Do you want more brainwashed citizens to take up this extremist cause because of the ST’s inexcusable undermining of our national security?

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 10.11.19 PM

Dear MDA,

Thanks to your decisive action and making your censorship newsworthy, I googled ‘I Know When the Rebel Sings‘ and found the uncensored version online. Now I know which sites to block in case my children stumble upon this image and get hypnotised into joining a foreign rebel army.

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Now you see me

The Singapore version:

st_20160624_nanewsha24k6ij_2390905

Foreign entities banned from sponsoring ‘sensitive’ events

From ‘Foreign views and Speakers’ Corner:MHA replies’, 20 June 2016, ST Forum

(Lee May Lin, Director, MHA): …We said in our statement of June 7 that we are reviewing the conditions for events at Speakers’ Corner. As it is, foreigners are already not allowed to organise or speak at the location, which is reserved for Singaporeans to express their views. Why then should foreign entities be allowed to fund, sponsor or influence events at Speakers’ Corner?

This has nothing to do with closing ourselves off from foreign views on social issues or hindering our ability to learn from others. There is no lack of opportunities or avenues for Singaporeans to learn from others. The Straits Times’ pages, for instance, are full of features and op-eds from foreign sources; and its columnists are assiduous in informing us of our shortcomings and how we can learn from others.

But that does not mean we should allow foreigners or foreign entities to participate directly in our debates or actively shape how we make political, social or moral choices, including on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

If the foreign entity wishes, say, to promote inclusiveness and diversity among its staff, as many do, the Government has no objection. But if the foreign entity were to actively support, in the public sphere, a particular position on a socially divisive matter like LGBT rights, the Government must step in to object.

Our position has consistently been that the right to decide on sensitive social and political matters in Singapore should be reserved for Singaporeans. Where LGBT issues are concerned, we apply this principle equally to foreign entities that oppose the LGBT cause as well as to those that support the LGBT cause.

Singaporean supporters of the LGBT cause cannot applaud when the Government intervenes to prevent foreign anti-LGBT advocates from interfering in our domestic politics, and then protest when the Government intervenes to prevent foreign pro-LGBT advocates doing the same. The same goes for Singaporeans who oppose the LGBT cause.

…The Government is committed to diversity and inclusiveness, and expects the same of businesses operating here, with respect to their employees. However, advocating positions on Singapore laws and policies on socially divisive issues is an entirely different matter.

Singapore would still be a ‘sleepy fishing village’ without the help from meddling outsiders. If the right to decide on social and political matters were left to Singaporeans alone, we wouldn’t be where we are today. On one hand, we’re notorious as a welcoming tax haven for the super-rich, on the other we stop ‘foreign entities’ from funding socio-political blogs or gay festivals. Modern Singapore would be very different had it not been for the Dutch foreigner cum chief economic advisor Albert Winsemius, or that white English dapper guy with a statue outside Parliament House.

LGBT issues are not the only moral conundrums that Singaporeans face. Another moral hot potato that almost certainly had a fair share of foreign influence is our decision to build casinos. Organised religion is also another sphere loaded with ‘sensitivities’ that is famously open to foreign ‘influence’. Megachurches are known for flying in international celebrity evangelists to spread the Word no matter how dangerously charismatic they are, yet we shut out visiting Muslim clerics with a reputation for inflammatory preaching. So Singaporeans are seemingly mature enough to handle foreign spiels when it comes to religion (or some religions for that matter), but not when these foreign devils are expressing an opinion about gay marriage, or whether you should get a damn tattoo against your parents’ wishes. That being said, I haven’t heard of any renown atheist given an auditorium to spread the gospel of godlessness here.

Then there’s the matter of our armed forces, which wouldn’t exist as the unstoppable force it is today without the help of what LKY referred to as the ‘Mexicans’, or Israeli instructors. We needed foreigners to keep our lands safe, to build our towns, to set up churches, temples and casinos, but now cut them off if they want to chip in for a gay festival. Is this the same approach if foreigners want to advise us on ‘sensitive socially-divisive matters’ such as welfare for single mothers, abortion, HIV trends among gays or how sporadically cheating on your spouse is possibly good for your marriage? We banned pick-up artist Julien Blanc from entering Singapore, but that hasn’t stopped Singaporean males from bypassing MDA’s blocks to surf Ashley Madison, or continue denigrating women for kicks based on what they see in porn.  Banning foreign intervention doesn’t make us ‘better’ analytical or critical policy thinkers. In some cases, we just do whatever the hell we want anyway, whether it’s banning chewing gum or Internet access to public servants. It’s a kind of intellectual protectionism, or if you prefer, mental inbreeding, which can only lead to a defective end product.

And who’s to say our foreign invaders are more dangerous than true blue Singaporeans? One individual who threatened violence against those who advocate gay issues happened to be a born and bred Singaporean with possible access to firearms. When politicians mention the phrase ‘a very dangerous man’ they’re more likely to refer to resident Singaporean Chee Soon Juan than some left-wing ang moh radical podcasting over Youtube. If Johnson’s Baby Wipes were to support babies born out of a wedlock, does that make the sponsor a threat to our moral fabric? Come on. Between goddamn baby wipes and a neighbour who owns the Book of Mormon and Mein Kampf , I’d be more wary of the latter. If Singapore were burning to the ground and a cross-dressing Superman extended his hand in friendship I think MHA would just probably spit on it.

The MHA’s stance on foreign intervention lives up to our reputation as a city of contradictions. What age is our ministry living in when anyone who’s not exposed to ‘outside influence’ is likely living under a rock at the bottom of a well? We don’t just learn about the outside world through the Straits Times and their ‘assiduous’ columnists. If Google and Facebook don’t get to sponsor Pink Dot, anyone could still Google pro-LGBT materials whenever they choose, and share them on Facebook for all to see. If a fictional TV series like House of Cards would prompt the likes of Kevryn Lim to join Opposition politics, would that show be considered as foreign ‘political’ influence and hence warrants a ban too?

MHA doesn’t just have a problem defining what ‘foreign’ means to them. They also haven’t a clue about what ‘public’ in today’s context means as well.